Why Australia’s virus death rate is so low


Australia is on the "global forefront" in terms of testing for the coronavirus, with more than 230,000 tests already carried out across the country.

There are now more than 4500 confirmed cases of the virus in Australia, with 19 people dying from the illness and 50 in intensive care.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said these figures show the virus is having a very different impact here compared to other countries, with the death rate being less than 1 per cent of confirmed cases.

"That is indicative that the testing regime is capturing the significant reflective data for the country," he said at a press conference this afternoon.

"Of those within ICUs, and in particular with ventilators, in the low numbers that we see - and all of these numbers will climb - but they are reflective again of the numbers. And it presents a very different picture to some other countries, where the lives lost represent not 0.5 per cent but 10 per cent of the cases.

"At this stage our numbers indicate that we are at the global forefront, we have a good picture of where we're at."

Mr Hunt said Australia is also in the early stages of flattening the curve of the virus, with strict social distancing measures helping to lower the number of new cases.

More than a week ago the country was experiencing a daily growth rate of 25 to 30 per cent, that has reduced in the last week to the low teens.

Mr Hunt said the latest advice is that in the last three days the daily growth has dropped to 9 per cent on average.

"That's an achievement to which all Australians have contributed. And I want to say, in these most difficult of times, with these most difficult of measures, that none of us had ever dreamt we would ever be involved in, you have risen to the occasion," he said.

"To those Australians who are at home, to those Australians who are isolating or in quarantine, I want to say thank you.

"Your actions are making a difference and saving lives. This progress is early, it's significant, but now, with these additional rules around gatherings and movement, we are going the next step to help reduce again the level of infection, and to support our containment."

A recent analysis by the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee (AHPPC) found the trajectory of the first 1000 cases in Australia was "somewhat different" to Italy, the US and UK where deaths have been higher.

Australia passed 1000 cases on March 21 and up to that point only seven people had died and less than 20 had needed intensive care treatment.

That compared to more than 20 deaths in Britain, around 30 in Italy and 35 in the US at 1000 infections.

However, this doesn't mean COVID-19 is under control in Australia.

Deputy chief medical officer Dr Nick Coatsworth warned that though the rates of infection seem to be decreasing, now is not the time to start being relaxing with social distancing rules.

"I would urge Australians now is not the time to take the foot off the pedal. The restrictions that the minister and the Prime Minister have introduced on gatherings are absolutely essential to prevent the virus from making its only move, which is from one person to another," he said.

"So, I would urge all Australians, follow those instructions to a T. Look towards your state governments for exactly what they are telling you to do."

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